Fallin Says Session Was a Lot of Hard Work

After the 55th Legislative session concluded on Friday, Governor Fallin noted that she was able to work with the Legislature to come up with a budget and solutions for other tough issues. She released the statement below reflecting her thoughts on the session.

“We worked hard to protect key core services – common education, health and human services, corrections and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority – while keeping our eight-year transportation infrastructure plan intact. My top priorities in my second term are strengthening education and workforce, reducing the state’s incarceration rates and improving its health outcomes. Whether it’s improving public safety, fixing our roads and bridges, boosting education or raising our health outcomes and indicators, the successes of this session to protect core services in the midst of an energy crisis will help to make Oklahoma a better place to live, work and raise a family.

“Faced with a $1.3 billion budget gap this session, I am pleased that lawmakers were able to make targeted spending cuts and free up revenues through tax reform and structural budget reforms to close the gap. Those reforms included making some money in the Cash Flow Reserve Fund available for legislative appropriation, improving revenue stability of the General Revenue Fund through passing legislation creating the Revenue Stabilization Fund and apportionment reform. We also ended the double deduction on income tax, capped a tax credit for at-risk wells and adjusted a coal credit.

“But I can’t help but feel we missed an opportunity to do more to reform our budget process and consolidate agencies. We still need to do more to address structural imbalances in the state’s budget, fix problematic tax policies and make available more recurring, stable revenue.

“I was also disheartened lawmakers did not address an important health improvement measure by failing to approve a personal consumption tax on cigarettes. Smoking is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death. Lawmakers approving an additional $1.50 per pack would have been the most important thing we could have done to improve Oklahoma’s health ranking.

“Oklahoma needs to address low-performing school districts and I hope lawmakers next year will consider consolidating the administrative costs of the state’s underperforming K-8 dependent school districts by putting them into existing preK-12 school districts. It’s important to note this does not mean closing rural schools. I was also disappointed lawmakers did not pass legislation to get more money to classrooms and enhance educational outcomes in a more effective way.

“As this year’s session ends, I’m pleased that legislators approved a $125 million bond issue to complete vital repairs at the state Capitol and earlier passed historic criminal justice reform bills that will help reduce Oklahoma’s prison population without jeopardizing public safety.”- Governor Mary Fallin

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